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What are Medical Errors?

If you have been wondering “What are medical errors?”, there is a good chance that you have experienced a medical complication. A medical error is a preventable, undesirable effect of normally quality medical care, whether or not it is evident or harmful to the patient. This might include an inaccurate or incomplete diagnosis or treatment of a:

  • Behavior
  • Disease
  • Infection
  • Injury
  • Syndrome
  • Or another ailment

Medication error is one of the most common forms of medical error. The National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention defines a medication error as “any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the health care professional, patient, or consumer…related to professional practice, health care products, procedures, and systems, including prescribing; order communication; product labeling, packaging, and nomenclature; compounding; dispensing; distribution; administration; education; monitoring; and use.”

Any of the above circumstances can lead to a medical malpractice case, which can be a patient’s best defense against poor quality medical care. Medical malpractice can occur when any of the following groups fail to provide adequate medical care, fail to properly diagnose a medical condition, or fail to properly treat a medical condition:

  • Doctors
  • Nurses
  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Nursing homes

It is certainly true that medicine is not a perfect science and there are risks inherent with any type of medical procedure. However, when a medical provider deviates from the acceptable standard of medical care and makes a medical mistake, and that mistake results in serious injury, it may be time to initiate a medical malpractice case.

What are medical errors? Well, there are many different types of medical negligence, such as:

  • Delay in diagnosis
  • Failure to make a proper diagnosis
  • Surgical mistakes
  • Improper medical treatment
  • Birth injuries, such as brain damage and cerebral palsy
  • Drug prescription error
  • Improper anesthesia
  • Failure to obtain proper consent prior to a procedure

No one knows exactly how many medical errors occur, but a landmark report in 1999 by the Institute of Medicine estimated that as many as 98,000 Americans die as a result of a medical mistake in any given year. The report also states that medical errors exact other significant tolls beyond their cost in human lives: they have been estimated to result in total costs (including the expense of additional care necessitated by the errors, lost income and household productivity, and disability) of between $17 billion and $29 billion per year in hospitals nationwide.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality recommends the following (and more) tips on how to avoid medical error from poor quality medical care:

  • Ask a family member or friend to go to appointments with you
  • Ask for information about your medicines in terms you can understand, both when your medicines are prescribed and when you get them
  • Ask for written information about the side effects your medicine could cause
  • If you are having surgery, make sure that you, your doctor, and your surgeon all agree on exactly what will be done
  • Learn about your condition and treatments by asking your doctor and nurse and by using other reliable sources
  • Make sure that all of your doctors know about every medicine you are taking
  • Make sure that all your doctors have your important health information
  • Make sure that someone, such as your primary care doctor, coordinates your care
  • Make sure your doctor knows about any allergies and adverse reactions you have had to medicines
  • When you are being discharged from the hospital, ask your doctor to explain the treatment plan you will follow at home

Hopefully this information has provided insight to the question, “What are medical errors?”. If you feel that you or a family member has received negligent or poor quality medical care that has resulted in serious injury, the first step would be to contact a medical malpractice lawyer to request a Free Case Consultation.

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